i-NATURE: Indigenous iNtegration of Aquatic sciences and Traditional-Ecological-Knowledge for Undergraduate culturally Responsive Education
Project i-NATURE (Indigenous iNtegration of Aquatic sciences and Traditional-Ecological-Knowledge for Undergraduate culturally Responsive Education) will incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge into existing models of STEM instruction and provide insights into environmental issues that impact American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. It will build an interconnected STEM program that fosters a culturally sensitive approach to teaching the natural sciences and resource conservation. AI/AN students have the lowest college enrollment and graduation rates of any student cohort at mainstream U.S. colleges and universities, and are significantly underrepresented in the STEM fields. This project seeks to understand and address this enrollment deficit, and prepare students for their futures through culturally relevant partnerships, research, and an experiential, learner-centered curriculum. i-NATURE will develop a collaborative network between academia and tribal natural resource programs in the Pacific Northwest, and produce an interconnected academic STEM program that fosters and builds on an existing cultural gravitation of AI/AN students toward the natural sciences and resource conservation. It will serve as model for other underrepresented groups and regions nationwide, as well as those interested in environmental issues.
The goal of i-NATURE is to develop a new, culturally responsive, place-based STEM curriculum that provides a seamless transition from high school and into the STEM workforce for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students. i-NATURE will develop this model using multiple partnerships among academic institutions (including Tribal Colleges) and tribal natural resource programs in the Pacific Northwest. The program will be tailored to meet the needs of AI/AN students in a culturally responsive manner while helping students acquire the skills and knowledge most critical for success in STEM fields. It will also prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The components of this model include: (i) an experiential project-based learning model with an emphasis on data analysis and communication, (ii) intergenerational mentoring, (iii) summer internships, and (iv) regional partnership development to create programs uniquely tailored for AI/AN success in STEM. It will generate new evidence regarding the student-level impacts on learning, success, and affect as a result of a community-driven, Traditional Ecological Knowledge approach to STEM education.